Template:Allegations of apartheid Allegations of Saudi Arabian apartheid draw an analogy from the policies of apartheid era South Africa to those of Saudi Arabia. Those who use the analogy point to Saudi treatment of women and religious minorities, policies of physical separation between the two groups, and/or allege second-class treatment of these groups in Saudi Arabia.

Gender apartheidEdit

See also Human rights in Saudi Arabia - Women's rights

Saudi Arabia's practices with respect to women have been referred to as "gender apartheid",[1] and according to Jan Goodwin, this issue is serious enough to warrant attention from the international human rights community.[2] Others criticize U.S. government words of support for the plight women and children in Afghanistan as a "cynical public relations ploy", arguing that the Bush administration has remained silent about the gender apartheid practiced by Saudi Arabia.[3]

According to Rita Henley Jensen while Saudi Arabian women "have the right to own property, transact business, go to school and be supported by their husbands, while maintaining their separate bank accounts", "Women on Saudi soil must have a husband or male relative as an escort. We are not allowed to drive. When sight-seeing we must wear a full-length black gown known as an abaya. During Saudi Arabia's first elections, held the week before my arrival, women were not permitted to vote or run for office." She states that hotels have no female employees, and that segregated eating areas in hotels and beaches for women have poorer facilities. She also criticizes Saudi law for setting female inheritance at half of what men inherit (see Female inheritance in Islam).[4] Ann Elizabeth Mayer sees gender apartheid as being enshrined in the Saudi Basic Law, particularly articles 9 and 10, which, in her view, deny women "any opportunity to participate in public law or government".[5]Though Mary Kaldor does not differentiate between gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and that enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan,[6] Margaret L. Andersen and Howard Francis Taylor see strictures such as the Saudi refusal to let women drive as indicative of a less extreme form of gender apartheid.[7] Daniel Pipes, too, sees Saudi gender apartheid as tempered by other practices, including the Saudi policy of allowing women "to attend school and work".[8]

Andrea Dworkin refers to these Saudi practices regarding women simply as "apartheid":

Seductive mirages of progress notwithstanding, nowhere in the world is apartheid practiced with more cruelty and finality than in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it is women who are locked in and kept out, exiled to invisibility and abject powerlessness within their own country. It is women who are degraded systematically from birth to early death, utterly and totally and without exception deprived of freedom. It is women who are sold into marriage or concubinage, often before puberty; killed if their hymens are not intact on the wedding night; kept confined, ignorant, pregnant, poor, without choice or recourse. It is women who are raped and beaten with full sanction of the law. It is women who cannot own property or work for a living or determine in any way the circumstances of their own lives. It is women who are subject to a despotism that knows no restraint. Women locked out and locked in.[9]

Daniel McNeill in his book The Face: A Natural History writes that "the apartheid is starkest in Saudi Arabia":

Most Saudi homes have one entrance for men, another for women. Women ride in the back of the bus in Riyadh, and enter it through a separate door. Until 1981 a woman couldn't meet her spouse unveiled till after the wedding. Saudi daughters inherit half as much as sons. Amusement parks and skating rinks have segregated hours, so families cannot visit together. Saudi banks are so segregated that only female auditors examine women's accounts. Medicine is the sole career where the sexes mix, because, though fundamentalists object to women doctors touching male patients, there aren't enough male physicians to go around.[10]

Others refer to these practices as "sexual apartheid".[11][12] Colbert I. King quotes an American official who accuses Western companies of complicity in Saudi Arabia's sexual apartheid:

One of the (still) untold stories, however, is the cooperation of U.S. and other Western companies in enforcing sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms, for instance, maintain strictly segregated eating zones in their restaurants. The men's sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women's or families' sections are often run-down, neglected and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands. My wife and other [U.S. government affiliated] women were regularly forbidden entrance to the local McDonald's unless there was a man with them."


Azar Majedi, of the Centre for Women and Socialism, attributes sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia to political Islam.[14] According to The Guardian, "[i]n the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sexual apartheid rules", and this sexual apartheid is enforced by mutawa, religious police, though not as strongly in some areas:

The kingdom's sexual apartheid is enforced, in a crude fashion, by the religious police, the mutawa. Thuggish, bigoted and with little real training in Islamic law, they are much feared in some areas but also increasingly ridiculed. In Jeddah - a more laid-back city than Riyadh - they are rarely seen nowadays.[15]

Religious apartheidEdit

Saudi Arabia's treatment of religious minorities has also been described by both Saudis and non-Saudis as "apartheid" and "religious apartheid".[16]

Testifying before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on June 4, 2002, in a briefing entitled "Human Rights in Saudi Arabia: The Role of Women"", Ali Al-Ahmed, Director of the Saudi Institute, stated:

Saudi Arabia is a glaring example of religious apartheid. The religious institutions from government clerics to judges, to religious curricula, and all religious instructions in media are restricted to the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, adhered to by less than 40% of the population. The Saudi government communized Islam, through its monopoly of both religious thoughts and practice. Wahhabi Islam is imposed and enforced on all Saudis regardless of their religious orientations. The Wahhabi sect does not tolerate other religious or ideological beliefs, Muslim or not. Religious symbols by Muslims, Christians, Jewish and other believers are all banned. The Saudi embassy in Washington is a living example of religious apartheid. In its 50 years, there has not been a single non-Sunni Muslim diplomat in the embassy. The branch of Imam Mohamed Bin Saud University in Fairfax, Virginia instructs its students that Shia Islam is a Jewish conspiracy. [17]

File:Christian Bypass.jpg

Amir Taheri quotes a Shi'ite businessman from Dhahran as saying "It is not normal that there are no Shi'ite army officers, ministers, governors, mayors and ambassadors in this kingdom. This form of religious apartheid is as intolerable as was apartheid based on race." [18]

Saudi religious police recently detained Shiite pilgrims participating in the Haj, allegedly calling them "infidels in Mecca [19]"

Until March 1, 2004, the official government website stated that Jews were forbidden from entering the country.[20]

According to Alan Dershowitz, "in Saudi Arabia apartheid is practiced against non-Muslims, with signs indicating that Muslims must go to certain areas and non-Muslims to others." [21] On December 14, 2005, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Representative Shelley Berkley introduced a bill in Congress urging American divestiture from Saudi Arabia, and giving as its rationale (among other things) "Saudi Arabia is a country that practices religious apartheid and continuously subjugates its citizenry, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to a specific interpretation of Islam." [22] Freedom House showed on its website, on a page tiled "Religious apartheid in Saudi Arabia", a picture of a sign showing Muslim-only and non-Muslim roads.[23]

According Saudi policy for tourists, it is not permissible to bring Christian or Jewish religious symbols and books into the kingdom and they are subject to confiscation[24]


  1. Handrahan (2001).
  2. "In 'From the Valley of the Chador,' Jan Goodwin (1994) discusses 'gender apartheid' in Saudi Arabia, unmasking a phenomenon that, she argues, has long been thought of as a 'personal problem' and revealing it to be a political issue that deserves attention from the international human rights community." Hanigsberg (1997), p. 76.
  3. "Sharon Smith, among others, has labeled such support a cynical public relations ploy. She cites... the U.S. government's silence over gender apartheid practices by allies such as Saudi Arabia." Hesford and Kozol (2005), p. 3.
  4. Jensen (2005).
  5. "Taken together, these suggest an intention to employ appeals to Saudi family values and premodern Islamic law in order to maintain the traditional patriarchial family structure and to keep women subordinated and cloistered within its confines, denied any opportunity to participate in public life or government. In other words, the Basic Law accommodates the Saudi system of gender apartheid". Mayer (1999), p. 122.
  6. "Islamic groups insist that women wear veils and, in some cases, the best known being the Taliban in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, they introduce what is essentially a form of gender apartheid". Kaldor (2003), p. 183.
  7. "Gender apartheid is also evident in other nations, although not so extreme as it was under Taliban rule. But, in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive; in Kuwait, they cannot vote." Andersen, Margaret L. & Taylor Howard Francis (2006) p. 316.
  8. "Yes, the Saudi state deems the Koran to be its constitution, forbids the practice of any religion but Islam on its territory, employs and intolerant religious police, and imposes gender apartheid. But it also enacts non-Koranic regulations, employs large numbers of non-Muslims, constrains the religious police, and allows women to attend school and work." Pipes (2003), p. 63.
  9. Dworkin (1993).
  10. McNeill (2000), p. 271.
  11. "The end result of this is that Saudi men have no opportunity to learn how to interact in a non-sexual way with women and so the system of sexual apartheid persists (Whitaker 2006)." Bradley (2007), p. 130.
  12. Stromquist (2002), p. 148
  13. King (2001).
  14. "Women are the first victims of political Islam and Islamic terrorist gangs. Sexual apartheid, stoning, compulsory Islamic veil and covering and stripping women of all rights are the fruits of this reactionary and fascistic movement." Majedi (2002).
  15. Whitaker (2006).
  16. Saudi Institute (2001).
  17. Congressional Human Rights Caucus (2002).
  18. Taheri (2003).
  19. [1]
  20. United States Department of State. Saudi Arabia, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004, February 28, 2005.
  21. Dershowitz (2002).
  22. To express the policy of the United States to ensure the divestiture... 109th CONGRESS, 1st Session, H. R. 4543.
  23. Religious Apartheid in Saudi Arabia, Freedom House website. Retrieved July 11, 2006.
  24. [2]


Template:Types of Segregation

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